Stop by Dubai
Dubai may not be the most obvious choice for a romantic stopover, but with so many long-haul honeymoons now passing through this busy hub, that looks set to change.
Despite its business-centric image, Dubai actually has a lot to offer newlyweds. This brand-new super-sparkly city mixes a glamorous cocktail of fashionable new luxury hotels, glitzy malls, chic restaurants, bars and nightclubs with traditional souks, rolling desert dunes and all-year-round sunshine.
Of course, if all you want to do is flop between flights there’s plenty of opportunity to do so, either at the hotel pool or at the Jumierah or The Palm beach parks. If, however you want to up the honeymoon ante, desert safaris and dhow cruises by day and drinks at the Atmosphere, the world’s highest bar on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, by night are a few honeymoon wow-factor moments that can be easily arranged.
A chic retreat
If the words chic and boutique are in any description of your perfect honeymoon hotel then the Desert Palm Dubai could be the place for you. Set on the outskirts of the city, amid acres of lush green polo fields and pretty Arabian gardens, the hotel is a complete surprise in a city obsessed with flashing the cash.
Here, the atmosphere is much more low-key; luxury still abounds but it comes in the form of warm cream walls, sleek dark woods and a cool art collection.
Your inner sanctum
Rooms are swish, sexy affairs packed with luxe touches and groom-friendly gadgetry. For the ultimate privacy opt for a private pool villa but if not, there’s no need to worry as all the rooms are really spacious and special.
The Desert Palm may be a design darling but the staff are entirely unpretentious and always on hand to tend to your every romantic request. Our favourite honeymoon experiences included a trip to the lush LIME Spa, a shimmering mosaic-covered space housed in the lower levels of the hotel but still boasting those wonderful views of verdant fields and prancing ponies.
We also loved the cool-in-summer-and-warm-in-winter infinity pool, afternoon tea at Jewel Lounge while watching the polo (try and catch the camel polo, it’s hilarious, they’re not easily compelled to play and often wander off of their own accord) and an evening on the terrace dining at Rare restaurant, followed by drinking cocktails as the sun sets over the magnificent city skyline in the distance.
Take a ride in a beautiful balloon
If you’re going to set the alarm for a 3am wake-up call on your honeymoon it had better be for a good reason. Watching the sun rise over the undulating desert from the gently swaying carriage of a hot air balloon has got to be one of them. From the Desert Palm, an hour’s car journey will take you deep into the rolling empty sands between Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman, where Captain Attila and his expert team from Arabian Adventures (arabian-adventures.com) will whisk you off for a magical early-morning voyage.
Being a desert, you might think there wouldn’t be much to see, but along with the amazing kaleidoscope of colours and shimmering sands, you can also expect to drift over Bedouin camps and Sheikhs’ palaces – and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of grazing gazelles or a herd of wild camels. It’s the stuff that honeymoon memories are made of.
Mad about the Maldives
An easy-peasy four-hour flight will then take you from Dubai to the heavenly islands of the Maldives, where nothing but rest, relaxation and romance lie in wait.
Just twenty-five minutes from the international airport, the Velassaru Resort is one of the easiest to reach islands in the South Malé Atoll, yet still feels secluded, and makes the perfect choice for hipster honeymooners. An effortlessly cool design ethos and an Ibiza-esque vibe is what makes this resort stand out from the competition. In-the-know newlyweds can expect all the beauty of a typical Maldivian resort – iridescent turquoise waters, swathes of powder-soft white sand and swaying palm trees – but with more of an edgy, sexy feel than most.
We loved our wonderful big water villa, perched above the lapping lagoon with its vast wall of windows and enormous terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground then there are also beach villas to choose from.
All the rooms encompass the resort’s cool contemporary design – think highly-polished timber floors, a vast ceiling and minimalist lines with flashes of hot orange, brilliant blue and bright green accents.
But, as gorgeous as the rooms are, you’re probably going to want to leave them at some point and if you do, the Velassaru’s over-water spa makes for the perfect afternoon of honeymoon indulgence. Book in for a couple’s treatment – the local massages are particularly good – to experience one of the gorgeous double suites with a Jacuzzi for two.
The food of Love
The Velassaru doesn’t have an all-inclusive option but it does have a variety of eating plans available. The best alternative is probably the Velassaru Indulgence package. It not only gives you the opportunity to take advantage of all of the island’s five fabulous restaurants, but also includes drinks with all your meals, the choice of either a sunset cruise or discovery tour of Malé, and two hours of kayaking or windsurfing.
If you want to push the boat out, there are several private dining experiences too. Our favourite was the Satay Barbecue for two on the beach where the seating and tables are moulded out of the sand and surrounded by a circle of candles. Your own personal chef will prepare a masterpiece of Asian cuisine right before your eyes.
A night with the stars
The Maldives’ magical location in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean holds the promise of one of the best views of the night sky that you will ever see.
Make sure to take some time in the evening for a romantic stroll on the beach to admire the Milky Way and maybe even wish on a shooting star – you’ll be wowed beyond words. And they’re not the only stars to be found at the Velassaru, once a week the hotel holds a movie night on the beach (complete with popcorn) where you can snuggle up on a beachside beanbag with the sand between your toes and have your fill of Hollywood’s finest.
When the show’s over, head past the twinkling infinity pool – which is lit with tiny fibre optic star-like lights to mirror the sky above – to Fen Bar for Basil Mojitos and a chilled-out end to the evening.
Emirates Tours (020 7590 1485, emiratestours.co.uk) offers a 10-night honeymoon package to Desert Palm, Dubai (desertpalm.ae) and Velassaru, Maldives (velassaru.com) from £1,305 per person. Based on two people staying three nights at Desert Palm in a Palm Deluxe Room with breakfast daily, and seven nights at Velassaru, Maldives in a Deluxe Bungalow with breakfast daily, plus a bottle of wine on arrival and one complimentary candlelit dinner. It includes return Emirates Economy Class flights from London Gatwick and return resort transfers. Valid for travel from 1 July to 15 September 2012.
The Arabian Adventures Hot Air Balloon trip costs £166. For details and to book, visit arabian-adventures.com
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